It wasn’t really stealing, Daniel thought to himself for the hundredth time, as he joined the two wires together and heard the engine come to life; just borrowing. He had done this every night for the last month and he still got a thrill out of driving away behind the wheel of a brand new car.
“Where are we going?” asked his younger brother Tyler, eyes wide with excitement.
“To the other side of the city. You always take the car far away from its own lot, but be sure you remember where it came from.”
Tyler nodded and ran his hand along the sleek hood. This was a flashier model than the ones Daniel normally borrowed, but he had wanted to show off on his brother’s first night.
The boys got inside the car, wrinkling their noses at the smell of polish, and Daniel drove slowly out of the lot, stopping the car on the street to replace the chain across the exit before joining the stream of traffic that pulsed through the city like an artery. He was careful to match the speed of the other cars and used signals for every turn, melding into the flow, until he pulled into the far end of the parking lot outside one of the larger casinos.
“Now, we wait,” Daniel said, studying the gamblers who were coming out of the main doors.
He watched men walk briskly to their cars, couples hail taxis and slide into the back seats of the cramped cabs, and valets hold open the doors of limousines for smart, young people who appeared to tip well. After half an hour or so a man stumbled out of the casino, looked at his watch and began walking out towards them.
“Here’s the first customer; I know this guy,” said Daniel and eased the car forward until it came alongside the man.
“Would you like a ride, sir?” Daniel asked in a cheerful voice, “only fifteen dollars to anywhere in the city.”
The man swayed and peered in at the two boys.
“Ah, Miguel, it’s you!”
Daniel silenced his brother’s confused look with a quick frown and a shake of his head while he leaned over the back seat to open the rear door.
“That’s right, sir, and this is Paco, my assistant.”
Tyler smiled and nodded mutely while the man fell into the back seat and yanked the door shut.
“Nice car, Miguel, did you get a raise?” he slurred.
“No sir, it’s my turn to take this car tonight; tomorrow I’m back to the older model.”
“Well, so long as it gets me home that’s what counts. Westmore Villas – you know the place.”
The man slumped back into the plush upholstery and closed his eyes, while Tyler made faces and gesticulated to Daniel who had already pulled onto the main road heading east.
They drove in silence apart from the wheezing of the man in the back which sent wafts of alcohol tinged breath around the car. Tyler opened his window and Daniel closed it again, motioning to his brother to sit still. Twenty minutes later they pulled up in front of a red brick apartment building and Daniel turned to the man.
“Sir, wake up, sir; we’re here.”
The man sat up, rubbing his eyes, and stared out of the window. After a moment he grunted, pulled a twenty out of his wallet and handed it to Daniel.
“Thanks, Miguel, see ya next time.”
Daniel reached behind him and opened the door. The man peeled himself out of the car and stood in front of the apartment, fumbling in his pocket. Daniel gave a wave then drove away taking a different route to the one they had come by.
“See, it’s simple, like I told you,” he said, “just never give your real name and always ask for fifteen dollars. Most people don’t have change so they’ll give you a twenty and let you keep the rest. And go for the ones who are a bit drunk and walking slowly.”
Daniel picked up two more passengers before turning the car over to Tyler and borrowing another one from a different lot. He wondered if he should have given Tyler the minivan and kept the luxury car for himself but he could have that car any time he wanted, and after all, this was Tyler’s first night on the job.
All night Daniel ferried people around the city; mostly short rides making twenty dollars each time but he was lucky enough to get fifty dollars from a man who wanted a fast ride to the train station. Once Tyler had learned the ropes he would have to get his friends in on the scheme; it was so simple. Those dealers had no idea what a goldmine they left sitting out each night.
Just before the dawn began to tickle the tops of the buildings the brothers met in the parking lot behind the main movie theatre.
“Well?” asked Daniel.
“Wow!” said Tyler, holding up a fistful of notes, “we’re rich!”
Daniel laughed and told his brother to follow him back to the first lot. He wanted to return the fancy car before the first shift of salesmen arrived, and two boys driving a minivan would attract less attention.
As he approached the first lot he saw they were too late; a couple of dealers and a cop wearing a bright yellow jacket stood by the empty spot where the car had sat. He slowly drove past the lot, waving his hand to Tyler, hoping that his brother would see the signal and know to follow him but Tyler just waved back and drove the car into the lot.
Cursing his luck, Daniel looped around the block and parked his minivan at a gas station, then sauntered past the dealer’s lot, trying to spot Tyler without being noticed himself. He need not have bothered with the secrecy as a small crowd was forming on the sidewalk gaping at the cop who was holding a wriggling Tyler in a tight grip.
“You little thief!” shouted the dealer, shaking his fist at Tyler, “you’ve been stealing cars off this lot!”
“No, I never,” said Tyler, his teeth chattering, “I found it over by the mall with the engine running and I was just bringing it back. How can I be stealing it if I brought it back?”
Daniel had to admire his brother’s quick wit. He would probably get away with it as, after all, he had not actually stolen the car, and there was no way to tell who had taken it, but it meant that their careers as taxi drivers were over. He would have to find something else to borrow instead.